No one ever writes "man, it's been a normal month for baseball," but April of 2015 has been a strange, albeit successful, period of time for this baseball team. No two ways about it. Whether it's the "feud" with the Athletics and Brett Lawrie, the brawl where Jeff Samardjiza (I will never, never be able to spell that man's name right on the first try) mistook a Royals coach for a threat to the President himself, or the weird ability of guys like Mike Moustakas and Kendrys Morales to hit baseballs, it's been strange. The Royals are 14-6, a record second only to those pesky New York Mets, and yet the winning doesn't even seem like the biggest story.
Part of that might be because the "18-11"-type starts have numbered me, even now, to the Kansas City Royals starting strong. Most of that, I suspect, is because I can't remember this much silliness around one Royals team in one month. And yet, they're currently at a 70% win percentage. While there were, and still are, reasons to doubt that the Roys had another good six months coming after their World Series run, maybe this is just a pretty good team. It wouldn't be the first time that an unlikely squad went from around average to good, so maybe we need to ask the Cubs about co-opting part of their new favorite hashtag.
Read on for your Pitching Staff Ups and Downs for the month of April!
SP - Edinson Volquez -
Hard to complain about the early returns on the Royals latest free agent experiment, as Volquez had turned in three quality starts of seven innings or more before having to leave in the sixth inning of a fourth start. Surprising no one, he looks pretty good in front of the Royals defense, but the drop in walk rate is probably a bigger reason for his hot start; while Volquez's LOB% (strand rate) is around average over his first 28 innings as a Royals, he's only walked 1.59 batters per nine innings. His career rate is 4.41, and last year's was 3.32. So that's a trend to keep an eye on.
SP - Yordano Ventura -
For some teammates, I suppose Ventura's take-no-prisoners approach in terms of the on-field shenanigans may win him points. In terms of actual performance, though, the results of his ejections (and injury scares, a separate issue) have been that a guy sort of key to the Royals postseason aspirations this year not logging as many innings as you'd like to see. Ventura hasn't been ineffective when he's been on the mound, but in surrendering more than four runs per nine despite a low BABIP, and only pitching 22 innings, it hasn't been his best start.
SP - Jason Vargas -
If anything better highlights how good the Royals defense/bullpen/hitting has been for some stretches, it's that neither Ventura nor Vargas has pitched particularly well yet and the team is still 14-6. Vargas, unlike Ventura, has actually been getting crushed, with every single indicator going the wrong way here in the early going. Strikeouts down, walks up, homers up. It's early yet, but Vargas really didn't post a decent start outside of his first of the year (unless you want to call his five walks in five innings start against Cleveland "decent," which I submit lowers the bar to the point where the word is meaningless).
SP - Danny Duffy -
Death, taxes, and me not quite knowing what to make of Duffy. After a year where he kept runs off the board at a higher rate than you'd expect, his first four starts of 2015 have kind of been what you'd expect from a pitcher with his DIPS stats who isn't Duffy. Duffy, to me, feels like another pitcher somewhere in-between "a little above average" and "perpetually waiting for more," but it's worth noting that last year's 149.1 IP were a career high; while Duffy isn't actually that young in baseball years, his approach as a starter still might be.
SP - Jeremy Guthrie -
Uh oh. For a guy this age, with Guthrie's middling stuff, to be hit this hard...not a good sign. You have to reach to give Guthrie any positive points from this first month. Uh, four home runs allowed could've been worse? He hasn't been ejected? His strikeout:walk is currently 1:1, and he hasn't made it out of the fifth in either of his last two starts.
RP - Chris Young -
Clear up arrow. Pitched pretty well, and is very tall.
RP - Yohan Pino -
I'm not going to read too much into Pino having three good outings, but eight strikeouts and no walks while allowing zero runs over 8+ is pretty good.
RP - Franklin Morales -
I assume the Royals have someone on hand to watch the trend of Morales having a reverse split this year, just in case Frank--er, Ned gets any ideas, but again, he's a Royals reliever. Royals relievers have been good.
RP - Ryan Madson -
From the scrapheap to 11 K's in 9.2 innings without being charged with a run. Back when the Royals were a mediocre team with too little that suggested they had upside, I did write a couple dozen times "well, at least Dayton Moore can construct a bullpen!" I am fairly confident in sticking by that.
RP - Kelvin Herrera -
Thinking Herrera should start marketing himself as "The Disgrace to Baseball," so that not too many players try to hone in on his awesome new nickname. While he's kept runs off the board, he's the only bullpen green arrow that comes with the caveat of a high walk rate thus far. So there's that.
RP - Jason Frasor -
I live in the New England sports market. I'm pretty confident in saying that there's four or five, maybe six relievers on the Royals that I'd want to bring in before anyone on the Red Sox (in current form). My friends keep lighting up my facebook newsfeed with pitching staff complaints. These are tough times.
RP - Wade Davis -
With Greg Holland on the shelf, Davis has stepped in an converted all four save opportunities he's had. Raise your hand if you're surprised. Really? No one? How strange.
(also, welcome back Brandon Finnegan!)
The Royals, fresh off a demolition of the Cleveland Baseball Club's pen last night, are again in Cleveland today, with the fun Ventura-Danny Salazar pitching match-up on tap. They'll then go into a four-game weekend set vs. Detroit at the K. Happy Wednesday!